Author: Kenneth E. Koons


Philip St. George Cocke (1809–1861)

Philip St. George Cocke was a wealthy plantation owner in Powhatan County and in Mississippi, who accumulated hundreds of slaves and thousands of acres of land. He became a leading advocate of agricultural interests, serving as president of the Virginia State Agricultural Society from 1853 to 1856, and promoting agricultural education. Cocke served as a lieutenant in the United States Army during the South Carolina Nullification Crisis in 1832, and in 1860, organized a cavalry troop in response to John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. When volunteers were combined into the Confederate army following the start of the American Civil War (1861–1865), Cocke’s rank was reduced from brigadier general to colonel. He took offense and later complained bitterly when Confederate general Pierre G. T. Beauregard did not praise him enough during the First Battle of Manassas (1861). In a state of despondency and mental anguish over what he regarded as poor treatment by General Robert E. Lee and others, he committed suicide on December 26, 1861.